Information Security (InfoSec) is a constantly evolving part of cybersecurity that includes methodologies to keep networks safe and secure no matter the level of outside attacks. Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are no stranger to these cyber-attacks. Even though 87% of small business owners don’t think that they are at risk of a cyber-attack, the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) says that 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses.
Many SMBs think they aren’t at risk for a cyber-attack, but because SMBs often lack a comprehensive security plan, hackers have figured out that small businesses are an easier target for stealing sensitive personal and/or financial information. Although having an information security policy for small businesses isn’t the end-all solution to combat cyber-attacks, it does provide SMBs with more visibility on the number of intrusions to their network infrastructure.
As more SMBs are targeted and breached by malicious hackers, business owners are seeking the formula for designing an information security plan that’s a fit for any small business. Although information security plans are not one-size-fits-all, they all do follow a similar recipe. Follow along as we cook up the comprehensive guide every small business needs to combat hackers and keep their data infrastructure safe from cyber-attacks.
Building a Strong SMB InfoSec Policy
An information security policy is a set of rules that dictate how digital information should be handled at all times. If you think that your small business doesn’t need this level of control over your data, you’re not considering how quickly technologies evolve to meet your company’s needs. It may not seem like it, but we’re constantly changing the way we use technology to interact with the world around us.
Naturally, this evolution of technology changes the way we handle data. An Information Security Policy forces your SMB to think through and address all of the ways that data your business handles data. It also allows you to outline how your business intends to keep its data safe even when there are countless ways that hackers can get past your network defenses.
A solid information security policy is one that sets defined boundaries that clearly specifies how users should safely using company technology. It also acts as a contingency plan for how you’ll handle emergency situations and scenarios if something does go haywire.
Download Our Cybersecurity Checklist
The InfoSec policy should contain cybersecurity best practices that employees are expected to follow; including (but not limited to) procedures for keeping employee, vendor, and customer information safe. Hackers can steal money, employee details, customer data, and vendor information which can all be damaging to your relationships with employees, customers, and vendors alike. This is why your InfoSec policy should contain specific protocols that will prevent your SMB from being a part of the half of small businesses cohort that goes out of business within six months of a cyber-attack.
Also Read : Why Your Team Need Cybersecurity Education
Assessments and Testing
Developing your small business information security policy begins with identifying the risk factors that your business may come into contact with in the future. No business, no matter its size or industry, is devoid of risks. This makes the organizational understanding of your SMB’s risk profile extremely important.
By testing your system, you may find that you’re using outdated software or ones that aren’t properly patched. This can pose significant issues to your network security and make you susceptible to dangerous malware that can shut your business down entirely if not remediated. If you find that your network is susceptible to phishing scams, it’s recommended that you bolster your cybersecurity posture in ways that will reduce your risk of a data breach.
It’s important to remember that it’s only possible to minimize, not eliminate risks to your network entirely. As long as your small business is storing data, you will always be at risk of a cyber-attack. This is why a risk assessment is important to help your team prioritize which cost-effective countermeasures to use if/when a breach were to occur.
Once potential threats and vulnerabilities are understood via assessments and testing, it’s time to address any and all network risks. Of course, this goes beyond installing antivirus software and setting up a firewall. Risk remediation should utilize appropriate technology solutions, company policies, and an incident response plan, that maps out continuous improvements to the organizational network infrastructure.
Your risk assessment should state how often you plan to reassess the potential threats to your IT security and update your security program. The type of risk assessment that you should perform needs to identify atypical data that may be defined as outside of compliance. Once those compliance risks have been identified, they can be remediated quickly.
Simply remediating risks is not going to end risks altogether due to the human factor that is inherent in all organizations. Even if a large portion of your organization is automated, it still requires a human component to monitor the actions of the programs. When one team member doesn’t know the appropriate protocol for mitigating the likelihood of a cybersecurity attack, it can mean trouble for the entire operation.
This is why a thorough training plan is needed to provide employees with advice on policies, password setup, verification processes, and a variety of other topics. Make sure to train employees in an ongoing fashion by integrating education opportunities in all facets of the workplace. Instead of making training a one-off event, inject training into the workplace culture.
Small businesses tend to think that they’re in the clear from hackers because they plan to go after the large conglomerates; a dangerous assumption that can get them into serious trouble. This is why security awareness training is paramount for employees to absorb and understand their responsibilities. Even if your team never has to use their training knowledge first hand, it will empower and relieve employees to know there’s a plan in place.
Hardware and Software Updates
Small businesses may not have the bustling bullpens that their large conglomerate competitors have, but they do utilize the same components regularly (i.e. desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices, etc.). Just like the large conglomerate companies, SMBs need to cover their bases and keep their hardware and software updated. This isn’t for reasons of increased productivity/efficiency; it’s about data security.
Any software that’s physically stored on your small business devices needs to be updated regularly. If your SMB is using a SaaS platform that has cloud software, make sure it’s set up to be automatically updated by your provider. To keep security issues from slipping through the cracks, spam filters should be in place to try and catch phishing emails and other junk before it gets infiltrated too deeply in the network.
Reducing risks in a small business also means limiting access for unauthorized personnel to company computers and accounts. Even a trusted employee shouldn’t be allowed to access computers and information that they are normally unauthorized to use. This is why having individual logins for employees and dictating a policy that ensures that they do not share their login with others is incredibly important.
Chances are, your SMB holds a surplus of confidential information that pertains to everyone from clients and customers, to personnel. Since you’re often contractually obliged to protect that data as if it were your own, limiting the number of people that hold the keys to this sensitive data is wise to configure.
One of the simplest ways to limit the risk of data or equipment being stolen is to make it difficult to access said data or equipment. Consider installing an access control system to more effectively limit access to certain areas of the building. Also, consider requiring that employees swipe a personalized key card in order to unlock a certain door.
Physical InfoSec Planning Procedures
More small businesses are becoming distributed thanks to the boom in freelance workers who are projected to be the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027. Even though telecommuting is becoming more commonplace (even amongst SMBs), physical information security measures need to be planned with careful consideration.
Start and end your day as a small business owner by physically checking your property’s perimeter. This will help you develop a heightened sense of awareness towards what’s normal and what isn’t. Make sure that you upgrade your doors, windows, and locks to ensure they can withstand an attempted break-in. Lastly, you can minimize potential harms by shredding and recycling all documents such as invoices that may contain sensitive information.
Developing Your Small Business InfoSec Plan
The U.S. Congressional Small Business Committee found that 71% of cyber-attacks happened at businesses with less than 100 employees. This is why it is so important to consider the digital aspects of information security in addition to the physical for your small business.
To scope out your entire information security plan, it’s best to start from the outside in, building layers of defense as you go. First, plan to secure your wi-fi network and monitor your traffic to identify potential hackers at a glance. Then, utilize encryption algorithms for the storage and transmission of all sensitive data on your server.
Once those layers of defense are configured, it’s time to create a security-minded data storage plan and onboard all of your employees to these protocols. Make it a habit to back up all of your data on a regular basis to ensure you stay covered in case your worst-case scenario of a data breach comes full circle. Incorporating these security measures into your small business information security plan can help you avoid both physical and cyber-attacks moving forward.
Elements of an Airtight InfoSec Plan
A solid information security plan gives your small business the big picture of how you should keep your company’s data secure. Using a holistic approach is best as that will give you a full spectrum understanding of how the plan functions within the various elements of your organization. By taking these steps to mitigate the risk of losing data in any one of a variety of ways, you can define a life cycle for managing the security of information and technology within your organization.
Albeit, planning is an important piece of your small business information security plan, but if the implementation of the program is not faithful to the plan it may not turn out well in the long run. If your team is not on the same page with the plan and you experience a loss that has legal consequences, you can use your information security plan as evidence of your diligence in protecting your data and following industry best practices.
The centerpiece to any sustainable information security plan is in the documentation of how often the plan itself will be re-evaluated and updated to ensure ongoing compliance. The global cybersecurity spending is expected to increase steadily to exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021, but the global cost of cybercrime will rise to $6 trillion annually by 2021. This paints the picture of how having overinflated cybersecurity budgets that are directed towards high-level strategy, without adequate focus on implementation and execution. This approach is often a huge detriment to your overall network security.
Having an ironclad information security plan for your small business will help you maintain your focus on IT security. It helps you to identify and stay in compliance with different regulations that affect how you manage your data. It also keeps you on the right track with clients and customers that need you to meet specific legal and contractual obligations.
Having a comprehensive information security plan that is continuously adapting to your small business and the ever-changing IT environment we live in is preferred for many reasons. If protecting your data security is on your small business list of to-dos, then an information security plan that encompasses specific assessments, training protocols, and access control procedures are what you should lean towards configuring. Contact RSI Security to get started.
Download Our Cybersecurity Checklist
Prevent costly and reputation damaging breaches by implementing cybersecurity best practices. Get started with our checklist today.